Stay in the know about wildlife, water quality, and ecosystems on Sanibel and Captiva Islands and in Southwest Florida

SCCF Board Gets Out in the Field

May 18, 2022

Under the leadership of Board of Trustees President Don Rice and CEO James Evans, board members have been getting their feet wet and their hands dirty as they learn more about SCCF’s mission-driven work.

Instead of sitting in the boardroom or meeting via Zoom, they’ve gone deep into terrestrial turtle habitat and out on the water to restore mangroves and oyster beds at a rookery island in Pine Island Sound.

Last week, Trustees accompanied Community Conservation Coordinator Kealy McNeal and Marine Lab Director Eric Milbrandt, Ph.d., on the RV Norma Campbell to help with research into the value of mangrove and oyster habitat restoration.

The trip to Benedict Key served as part of SCCF’s Coastal Watch effort to recruit volunteers to assist with ongoing restoration that includes planting mangroves grown from propagules and scattering oyster shells donated by island restaurants.

“These field trips give our Trustees hands-on knowledge of the work being done across all our program areas—on our preserves and in the waters and out islands surrounding Sanibel and Captiva,” said Rice. “We appreciate the staff’s engagement in keeping our volunteer leadership well informed of the great work being done.” 

Trustees transported 1,350 pounds of oyster shell and planted 35 red mangrove (Rhizophora mangle) seedlings, which were grown by local community members through Coastal Watch’s Adopt-A-Mangrove program. By participating, they learned firsthand what volunteers are expected to do on such trips so they can help recruit neighbors, friends, and family to contribute to restoring vital marine and bird rookery habitat.

In April, Trustees visited three sites to see the work the Wildlife & Habitat Management team does under the leadership of Herpetologist Chris Lechowicz to protect various species and habitats on preserve lands. 

They ventured into mangroves to see some of the techniques used to monitor diamondback terrapin (Malaclemys terrapin) populations and collect data. Then, they hiked into uplands to see habitat management work being done where gopher tortoise (Gopherus polyphemus) dwell. 

As their last stop, they got their boots muddy by walking into the wetlands at the Erick Lindblad Preserve to observe how telemetry is used to track various species of turtles, and to see how the team samples for swale fish and macro-invertebrates.

“We look forward to getting the Trustees out next fall to experience more of what our amazing team of scientists, educators, and native landscape gardeners do to protect and care for our coastal ecosystems,” said Evans.

L to R, front row, SCCF CEO James Evans, Trustee Jill McCormack, Trustee Nik Khakee, Trustee Tom Libonate, Trustee Christine Szymanczyk, and Trustee Megan Doss. Back row, Trustee Dick Pyle, Secretary Ran Niehoff, Trustee Chip Roach, Trustee Bob Brooks, and SCCF Wildlife & Habitat Management Director Chris Lechowicz.


L to R, SCCF Community Conservation Coordinator Kealy McNeal, SCCF Marine Lab Director Eric Milbrandt, Sanibel FlyFishers President Pete Squibb, Trustee Jill McCormack, Trustee Laura Shaffer, Past Board President Paul Roth, and SCCF CEO James Evans.
Photos by Shane Antalick


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